PRINT December 2018

Jack Bankowsky

View of “Jutta Koether: Tour de Madame,” 2018, Museum Brandhorst, Munich. Photo: Johannes Haslinger.

1 JUTTA KOETHER (MUSEUM BRANDHORST, MUNICH; CURATED BY ACHIM HÖCHDORFER AND TONIO KRÖNER) Corralling some 150 paintings, and accompanied by a book as brainy as it is brawny, “Jutta Koether: Tour de Madame” made a most eloquent case for a painter whose recognition is all the more satisfying for having been hard-won. Koether began her career in 1980s Cologne on the periphery of the new painting boys’ club, and her emergence as her generation’s German painter of record has required patience, cunning, and, well, Art. It has demanded that she come at her medium from both inside and outside the frame, lighting up the networks art travels through but also, in exceptional cases like her own, short-circuits—then reconnects.
Co-organized with Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean Luxembourg.

Stephen Shore, Sderot Israel, September 14, 2009, C-print, 17 × 21 3⁄4".

2 STEPHEN SHORE (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY QUENTIN BAJAC WITH KRISTEN GAYLORD) For nearly half a century, the ur-photographer has hewed close to his medium’s “truth”—which is to say, its embeddedness in our everyday lives, as snapshot, as document, as advertisement, as Instagram post. I’ve always liked Shore. His American road trip is my American road trip and, I guess, everybody else’s, too. And yet it took this clear-eyed overview to wake me up to the breadth and profundity of his engagement with the medium that has, after all, defined our times.

Martin Margiela, wigs and hairpieces jacket, Fall/Winter 2008–2009, synthetic blonde hair, ivory taffeta. From the Artisanal collection. Photo: Stéphane Piera/Galliera/Roger-Viollet. Cover of Artforum, March 1995. Martin Margiela, two looks from the spring 1995 collection.

3 “MARGIELA/GALLIERA, 1989–2009” (PALAIS GALLIERA, PARIS; CURATED BY ALEXANDRE SAMSON) A Brooks Brothers–and–blue jeans type of guy, I emerged from this electrifying tribute patting my own fashion-backward back: Margiela was the one designer who landed on the cover of this art magazine, during my 1990s run as editor. Mercifully lacking in curatorial hubris, Samson’s no-nonsense survey tracked this innovator’s sartorial exploits, season by genius season, each collection accompanied by a clip of the runway proceedings that put the high-concept clothes on living, moving bodies. Confession: I own one Margiela. A cardigan that weighs as much as an area rug. It works well with jeans.

Reza Abdoh, Minamata, 1989. Performance view, Los Angeles Theatre Center, 1989. Photo: Chris Gulker.

4 REZA ABDOH (MOMA PS1; CURATED BY KLAUS BIESENBACH AND NEGAR AZIMI, TIFFANY MALAKOOTI, AND BABAK RADBOY) This preternaturally precocious theater artist, poet, and enfant terrible died at the age of thirty-two, a fact rendered doubly poignant when you consider that Abdoh’s commitment to the live act was so total that he forbade all posthumous restagings of his brain-rearranging art. It is our good fortune that fragments remain. For this loving tribute, every shard of his terrifying, mesmerizing output was tracked down and pieced together alongside a graphic chronology of the artist’s life and times, from his privileged childhood in prerevolutionary Iran, to his artistic coming-of-age in Los Angeles, to the days leading up to his death from aids in 1995.

Peter Hujar, Gary Indiana Veiled, 1981, gelatin silver print, 14 3⁄4 × 14 3⁄4". 

5 GARY INDIANA, VILE DAYS: THE VILLAGE VOICE ART COLUMNS, 1985–1988 (SEMIOTEXT[E]; EDITED BY BRUCE HAINLEY) Having monitored the toxically overstimulated art circus of the middle 1980s from an East Village apartment so dark it made the Swedish winter feel like the Fourth of July, I can confirm that the title of Indiana’s column rings true to the years he spent on the art beat for the Village Voice. Indiana is, among other things, a supremely gifted essayist, and these rapid-fire art/life musings—skeptical, literary, at times impatient with their often unworthy subject matter—should, in these new dark days, serve as object lessons for the would-be cultural scribe, and as nightstand balm for the rest of us.

Thomas Phifer, Glenstone Museum pavilions, 2018, Potomac, MD. Photo: Iwan Baan.

6 GLENSTONE (POTOMAC, MD) Start with a hoard of contemporary art staggering in both quantity and quality; add the new and improved plant, a sequence of elegant, light-flooded, Tom Phifer–designed “pavilions”; and factor in an idyllic 230 acres of meadowed and reforested prime Potomac real estate, all of it conceived with ideal viewing in mind—and all of it open to the public as of October 4. Oh, and as for the inevitable chatter re: latter-day robber barons and the darker contradictions of philanthropy? I know, I know, but I’m not giving up my Glenstone (or my Frick)—at least not until the revolution.

Jean-Antoine Houdon, Life Mask of George Washington, 1785, plaster, approx. 12 1⁄2 × 8 × 5". From “Canova’s George Washington.”

7 “CANOVA’S GEORGE WASHINGTON” (THE FRICK COLLECTION, NEW YORK; CURATED BY XAVIER F. SALOMON) Check out the ornamented armor that rolls with the president’s abdomen, more tattoo than protective shell, and as such improbably sexy. Track the pose—original, inevitable—as it resolves itself in the sketches the artist employed to tease out his conception. Ponder the decision to dress our founding father in antique garb. Organized around a life-size plaster modello for Antonio Canova’s George Washington, a statue tragically consumed by fire a decade after its unveiling in 1821, this summer sleeper spoke as eloquently to Charles Ray’s twenty-first century as it did to Canova’s nineteenth.

Hilma af Klint, Grupp IV, De tio största, nr 7, Mannaåldern (Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 7, Adulthood), 1907, tempera on paper mounted on canvas, 10' 4“ × 7' 8 1⁄2”.

8 HILMA AF KLINT (SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, NEW YORK; CURATED BY TRACEY BASHKOFF WITH DAVID HOROWITZ) Af Klint, by all accounts, was no normal mortal. Not only did the Swedish mystic and abstractionist avant la lettre hold her massive output tight to her chest for the whole of her long life (she was eighty-one when she died, in 1944), but her scrupulous attention to the ordering and indexing of her secret oeuvre suggests that she believed the future awaited her with open arms. Af Klint’s contribution, arrayed here in all its abundant originality, threatens to reduce to a footnote the mostly male history of esoteric abstraction, from Wassily Kandinsky to Alfred Jensen.
On view through April 23, 2019.

View of “Laura Owens,” 2017–18, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. From left: Untitled, 2014; Untitled, 2014; Untitled, 2013. Photo: Ron Amstutz.

9 LAURA OWENS (WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY SCOTT ROTHKOPF) I loved the audacious installation, each room a separate thesis re: how to hang an Owens. I loved the scrapbook anti-catalogue that, like the artist’s 356 S. Mission Rd. project, performs the will-to-community that is, for Owens, the core of what it means to be an artist. And I loved the painting—febrile, cheeky, endlessly inventive.

10 CAMERON ROWLAND, STIHL GAS BACKPACK BLOWER—ITEM: 0628-002765 AND STIHL BACKPACK BLOWER—ITEM: 0514-005983 (MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES) Best readymade since the bottle rack: a pair of leaf blowers (plus hedge trimmer) seized by the police and tagged for auction. “Civil asset forfeiture?” Start at your Hollywood hedgerow and follow the bread crumbs. . . . It’s so not funny.

Jack Bankowsky is a critic, a curator, and Artforum’s Editor at Large. He currently organizes the spring seminars for Artcenter College of Design, a series that brings notable artists and writers to the school’s Pasadena, Ca, campus.